Sinas’ appointment as PNP chief draws mixed reactions

Sinas’ appointment as PNP chief draws mixed reactions

In-coming PNP chief MGen Debold Sinas

By Tracy Cabrera

DESPITE being embroiled in controversy over issues of flouting the quarantine protocols set by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and other alleged abuses, President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the appointment of Major General Debold Menorias Sinas as the next chief of the 200,000-strong Philippine National Police force.

In a statement presidential spokesperson Atty. Harry Roque rationalized the president’s decision  to choose Sinas while parrying criticisms thrown against the outgoing National Capital region Police Office (NCRPO) director and added that though “Chief Sinas may not be perfect, he (has been) able to impress the chief executive with his supposed dedication in the fight against illegal drugs.”

Roque explained that the appointment of Sinas to the top PNP post was a matter of trust and confidence, and the general “for the moment, the most trusted by the President, so let’s leave it at that.”

Sinas will replace General Camilo Pancratius Pascua Cascolan, who retires on today, November 10. Cascolan was PNP chief for two months while Sinas will serve until May next year when he reaches the compulsory retirement age of 56.

The new PNP chief was charged criminally and administratively for alleged violations of physical distancing and mass gathering rules in May, when a strict lockdown in Metro Manila was in place, for a birthday mañanita (midnight serenade) at the headquarters of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO).

The incident practically made mañanita an everyday word associated with the police official.

But according to interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año, “that case (of mañanita) is still under preliminary investigation so it has not been resolved.”

“That hasn’t reached the court so there is still no pending case by its definition,” Año stressed.

The secretary further said that “(Sinas) went through the career ladder (in the PNP)” and as such “his qualifications (are) very qualified (despite the) controversial . . . mañanita.”

Sinas, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1987, also served as secretary of the directorial staff at the PNP national headquarters and Central Visayas police director. He had a brief stint as PNP Crime Laboratory director and was with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, the PNP intelligence group, and served in the Soccsksargen, Zamboanga Peninsula, Central Luzon and Cordillera Administrative Region police offices in various capacities.

The president had refused to relieve Sinas from his NCRPO post following the mañanita controversy, discounting the general’s flouting of quarantine protocols with his description of Sinas as good and honest and should not be faulted for the decision of PNP personnel to serenade him.

Party-list lawmakers, however, expressed mixed feelings about Sinas’ new post.

The Makabayan bloc warned of more human rights violations with the outgoing NCRPO chief’s appointment, recalling arrests and extrajudicial killings during Sinas’ stint as police director for Central Visayas from 2018 to 2019.

Added to this, Central Visayas saw a rise in unsolved killings of people linked to the illegal drug trade on Sinas’ watch, based on reports from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in the region.

CHR chief investigator Leo Villarino said Sinas would always be remembered as the police official who was firm in his decision not to give human rights investigators copies of police reports on the killings in Central Visayas.

“While we appreciate his relentless campaign against illegal drugs in Central Visayas, there were just so many killings (on) his watch,” Villarino said.

“The CHR is conducting an investigation (of) these killings, although we failed to get the documents from the police. I understand he was just following orders from higher-ups. But soon, when he becomes the chief PNP, I hope, he will scrap that policy out,” the human rights investigator disclosed.

In another quarter, Bayan Muna party-list representative Ferdinand Gaite noted that “during General Sinas’ stint in Western Visayas, numerous extrajudicial killings and illegal arrests had been rampant.”

For his part, Diwa party-list lawmaker Mike Aglipay, who is a son of former PNP chief Edgar Aglipay, emphasized that Sinas “must be an example in following the law.”

“As the chief law enforcer in the country, we expect nothing less from him,” Aglipay pointed out.

Still, Año said he expected Sinas to “lead the PNP organization with higher intensity in the fight against illegal drugs, criminality, extremism or extremists, and communists, bandits, terrorists and he should continue the cleansing program of the PNP to instill professionalism and discipline and remove, if there are still remaining, scalawags from the organization.”

“So, let’s give him a chance. The President has spoken, then let’s give Sinas a chance,” he said.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Sinas’ appointment “will definitely raise a lot of eyebrows.”

“Despite that, General Sinas should demonstrate his sincerity to continuously clean up the ranks of our police force starting by leading by example at all times,” Gatchalian enthused.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief himself, took a forgiving tone. Saying that ‘barring any controversy that Major General Sinas got entangled with in the past, he is a good choice for the top PNP post,” probably because of his good management skills as noted by Manila Police District Director Brigadier General Rolando Fernandez Miranda.

Sen. Ronald ‘Bato’ Dela Rosa, another former PNP chief, praised Sinas for “(having) a proven track record.”

Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros chided President Duterte for choosing Sinas over other high-ranking police officer as PNP chief, saying the chief executive could have made a “more meritorious choice” than the outgoing NCRPO director.

“While Debold Sinas was my late husband’s underclassman and an old friend, unfortunately, the poor manner in which the PNP has acted on the waves of violence, as well as minimized the risks of the coronavirus pandemic under his previous commands, betrays his level of competence for this new role,” Hontiveros said in conclusion. (ia)

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